I suppose, as the latter article underlines, lobbying in theory is a conduit for democratic debate:
Lobbying in order to influence political decisions is widely regarded as a legitimate part of the democratic process. Lobbyists are firms or individuals that are paid to influence such decisions.
They are often former politicians or ex-civil servants who have developed personal contacts with those in power.
Alternatively, individuals. firms, charities and other groups can lobby on their own, without paying professional lobbyists.
The problem, of course, is the rank professionalisation of the activity. That people and firms can earn livings on the back of all this is clearly a vector for the infection of our body politic.
So why does it need to happen in the first place? I suppose, in the first instance, it has something to do with the trafficking of information. From the hundreds of thousands of press releases which attempt to churnalise good journalists into moral submission to the ready-made pre-digested outputs of the higher-powered lobbyists, we basically have an information industry giving up self-interested executive overviews to MPs and others who often have very little time on their hands.
Do we really believe all MPs and Lords religiously read every word of every parliamentary proposal? Or, indeed, are able in relatively short timeframes to accurately judge the implications of every clause? In such a circumstance, it surely ought to be both beneficial and inevitable that outside specialists interact with and inform our representatives in both Houses.
Surely it should. Surely it must:
- 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections
- 145 Lords have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 124 Peers benefit from the financial services sector
- 1 in 4 Conservative Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 6 Labour Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 6 Crossbench Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 1 in 10 Liberal Democrat Peers have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in healthcare
- 71 MPs have recent or present financial links to companies involved in private healthcare
- 81% of these are Conservative
And so it goes on.
So how can we resolve the corrupting nature of money in our democratic process? I think it would be relatively simple. As follows: how about we throw even more money at our MPs and Lords? “More money?” I hear you screech. “Well, yes,” I reply hurriedly. Let me explain.
Just as churnalism is the bane of modern mainstream media, as overworked communicators rely more and more on the PR industry for the sources of their stories and points of view on reality, so the spin and angles professionalised lobbyists place on our perceptions of the world don’t half taint these perceptions to a considerable degree. Yet if each and every MP and Lord had their own properly resourced research machine, resourced to the extent any half-decent lobbying firm is currently resourced for example, and which allowed them to investigate from scratch the whole world and its mother, wouldn’t the impact on and need for our representatives to engage with such democratically debilitating creatures fall dramatically?
If every one of our representatives was in essence the centre of a mini think-tank all on its lonesome, wouldn’t the information flow and the unhappy dependence on external mediation become far less necessary? In such a way, then, we could recover some of the alleged former glories of our constituency system where individuals used to vote with their own properly informed – and relatively independent – minds on matters their own understandings served to broaden.
Once this was so; the world, quite naturally, has since become far more complicated. Hardly surprising many cannot keep up, and therefore feel the need for the supporting hand of intellectual bribery. (Sometimes literal bribery too.)
But if MPs and Lords could revert to being those disinterested specialists of other times whose careers were designed to consistently enable representative democracy, instead of the helicopter-viewing extensions of PR merchants they’ve latterly and frequently turned into, we could perhaps begin to reconstruct a recognition that not all in our democracy has to stink so unlimitedly.
What I am finally suggesting? I suppose nothing more nor less than this: that our MPs and other representatives became not just private but, more significantly, very public investigators.
Not easily swayed recipients of pre-digested wisdoms but – actually – generators of original and very evidence-based thought.
A Magnum anyone?
No. Not those summer thoughts of lazy indulgence. This one I mean, of course! (In a way …)